Archives for the month of: June, 2017

A quick blog to answer a query I’ve had about my experience of the changes in behaviour in my school since we’ve had our behaviour system. Just the first things that come to mind, there are lots more I’m sure. 
Before

Some teachers cry regularly

Sunday night fear

Timetable a source of grief: ” we get year 9 period 5 every day!”

A problem with the printer or computer was absolutely awful, as you needed that resource for your lesson, the lesson must keep moving otherwise you’ll lose them and not get them back all lesson…

Lessons after break and lunch were shit

Often hear swear words

Often experience overt rudeness eg “WHAT?! GOD!” when you asked a pupil to do something

Often experienced refusal e.g to pick up dropped litter

Seating plans for behaviour

Lesson plans for behaviour

Very often experienced “low profile rudeness” eg smirks, slow movements carrying out instructions, tone of voice

Litter everywhere

Vandalism

Sore throat after some lessons

Some pupils with ASD unable to cope in lessons due to noise 
After: none of the above. 

A quick blog about some of the changes to my thinking in writing my own textbooks.

1. SLOP not mastery. I’m still really interested in mastery but it needs a LOT of work. I think we need really careful consideration of both the structure of scientific knowledge and the questions we can set. It seems to me we might need a significant restructuring of the curriculum in order to build knowledge meaningfully using the mastery model… I’ve got reading to do on this but in the meantime…. SLOP! Or “Shed Loads Of Practice”. Or how about SLOPWIFF? Shed Loads Of Practice With Immediate Formative Feedback? I’m mad keen on giving the answers that same lesson, for something approaching deliberate practice as described by Ericsson in “Peak”.

2. Fluency. I’ve only just realised that some things are better taught for fluency first and understanding second. I’ve been influenced by Kris Boulton, Dani Quin and Hin-Tai Ting here. And many other topics may suit maybe something like a spiral-type model, as in teaching for fluency and then dropping a bit of understanding in, then more fluency, then a bit more understanding… I think electricity has a lot to gain from this. Previously I was trying to write books for understanding before fluency and now I think this isn’t right for some areas. I’ve made some SLOP work for circuits to build fluency, sharing here:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1EnIwSSbgTgaXVXNmJsVGM5MjQ/view?usp=sharing

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3. Format – I’ve dropped the idea of using the same font as the exams. I think reading Daisy Christodoulou’s “Making Good Progress?” influenced me here. Wrong to think that exam practice is best preparation for exams. Best to teach the science in the best way possible, including the best format. Some of my groups will be intimidated by lots of dense text on a page. I’ve tried out the font “OpenDyslexic” – don’t @ me! You can download my new waves textbook in this font here https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1EnIwSSbgTgeFVUTGhCNmNBaVU/view?usp=sharing

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As always I hope the files I’ve shared will be useful to some people, if you spot any howlers etc. please give me a shout! Thanks R

 

I am of the opinion that centralised detentions are not just great for workload but actually fundamental to a great behaviour system.

 

A good centralised detention system not only groups detainees together but also centralises the administration so that one administrator phones home, tracks attendance, and administers escalation for non-attendance.

The benefits of this are many:

 


1. Time saved. We need time to plan for the new GCSEs, apart from anything else. We need a sensible workload so our teachers can be the best that they can be. We need it for recruitment and retention.

 


2. Morale. Teachers like working, and the most intellectual work is the most rewarding. Freeing staff up to work on actual teaching can be transformative for culture.

 

3. Centralised detentions ensure consistency: detention is always the same so the pupils always know exactly what they’re going to get for a certain behaviour.

 


4. Detentions can be longer and therefore more of a deterrent. Ours are all 1 hour long.  

5. No disincentive for staff to pick up on behaviour. I cannot stress the importance of this point enough.  There are a few points to make here.

 

5.1: Even utterly conscientious staff will find themselves, from time to time, in a position where they have to prioritise, and doing a detention will not come first. Consider the new HOD with two teachers off sick and Y11 coursework to complete by Friday. You’d be daft if you prioritised detention with a year 7 for low-level disruption. But behaviour will suffer because of this.

 

5.2: When picking up on behaviour, you often have to ask yourself, “did I really just see/hear that?” Or “does that count as rudeness/low-level disruption/ pushing?” You have to make that decision in a split-second, often with other stuff, such as a lesson, going on around you and placing a further load on your working memory. I suggest that teachers will err on the side of leniency if they know strictness leads to extra work. I suggest this will happen even at a subconscious level in highly conscientious teachers.

 

5.3. If enforcing the behaviour policy entails an increase in workload, some teachers may, consciously or unconsciously, resort to other methods to gain compliance. These include being scary or being liked. These are problematic as methods of behaviour management because the former isn’t nice and the latter wastes learning time, neither are available to all staff and both undermine the actual policy by interrupting its predictability.

 

5.4. How many schools have 100% utterly conscientious staff? You need a system that works even if some teachers aren’t prepared to give all their energy to the job. Two more points to make here: if something in the job means that teachers have to neglect friends, family, and personal time in order to do a good job, then something isn’t working. And, paradoxically, when teachers are freed from these burdens they become more engaged, more happy to spend time on cpd, extra-curricular, stepping up in times of need etc. A system like ours works to change the culture: people feel part of something when they’re freed to use their time at the highest level of their profession (planning) rather than the lowest (detentions).

5.5. And what about supply staff? A centralised detention system means that all supply teachers can rigorously apply the system. Most supply teachers are paid until the end of last lesson so why on earth would we expect them to do detentions after that for free?

The most common objection I hear to centralised detentions is this: “What about repair and rebuild?” Many people feel that if a teacher gives a detention, that teacher needs to conduct the detention with the pupil in order to tend to the relationship with that pupil.
They might feel that this is necessary on a practical level, that without this process a pupil will be angry with the teacher and then misbehave again in future lessons. Or they may feel there’s an ethical element to it: it’s only right that we should explain consequences to pupils after we’ve given them. The pupils might not get this kind of explanation at home. The pupil deserves an explanation.

Let’s look at these concerns in turn. First of all, do pupils who’ve had a centralised detention misbehave more in their next lesson ? Now I haven’t done an RCT but no, no they don’t. Or maybe they do but the effect is vastly overshadowed by the consistency and inevitability of the system. If I teach a new class, I don’t need to follow through for them to know “if Miss says you’ve got detention, you have to go otherwise she always rings home and gives you twice as long the next day” or whatever. They already know detention means detention, from every other teacher in the school. It’s actually much less common for a pupil to view a detention as unfair because the system is so consistent and inevitable. Also: we are nice! We don’t give out detentions with malice and we praise the good stuff!
If a pupil is angry with a teacher for a consequence, I’d argue that if a conversation is needed then it needs to involve a pastoral leader. This sends the message that the teacher is backed up and doesn’t need to apologise, but also the pupil knows their concerns have been heard, the pastoral leader knows their “background” and so can say things like “you’ve come a long way since year 7 Katy and we’re really proud of you for that. Miss is absolutely right to give you a C4 for repeated low level disruption, I think probably you’re angry with yourself as much as anything for letting it slip.” I had precisely this sort of conversation the other day. It is needed, but rarely, and should be done right. We’ve also got a small number of pupils who are resisting the system. These pupils are frequently in isolation and they do need something repairing and rebuilding but it’s a bigger job than a teacher can do in a detention. I’d say that nearly all of these pupils are where they are because of a lack of boundaries in the past. We’ve got lots of pupils now who were in this group, but have been through the detention and isolation system many times and with pastoral support have now learnt how to improve their behaviour. It’s a privilege to observe such a change.

Why do pupils misbehave? The vast majority of the time, it’s because they can. It’s because they know there will be no consequence, or because they don’t know what the consequence will be. Yes, many of our pupils have troubled backgrounds. This is neither necessary nor sufficient for poor behaviour, but where an emotional or whatever issue does exist it should be dealt with properly, and not devalued by treating every misbehaviour as a result of “background”.

 

 

 


So let’s look at the ethical concern. Are we morally obliged to repair and rebuild in detention? No we’re not. As stated above, pupils on the whole don’t
The thing that most often makes pupils angry is inconsistency and this is precisely what centralised detentions help to avoid, because the workload disincentive is removed. I’d argue that we owe it to our pupils not to put their feelings at the centre of every action maintaining order in lessons so that everyone can learn loads.
I also think we should be wary of the message we send. Teachers should not have to explain their actions. In an effective policy, the explanation should be known before the action: if you do X, you will get consequence Y. Pupils will test whether these statements hold true, but they shouldn’t feel hard-done-by when they find they do. I think we run dangerously close to sounding like we’re apologising when we have these repair and rebuild conversations – even if that’s not our intention.

Our pupils are happy because school is a nice place to be and they learn loads. I think providing this is our moral obligation to our pupils.

And what about the feelings of all the other pupils who aren’t misbehaving? I’ll tell you now, plenty of them have got difficult backgrounds. This is not “she behaves even though her dad’s in prison, why can’t he?” It’s just to show the poor logic of the argument that we owe certain pupils more time because of their behaviour.

Every single pupil in every single class deserves to learn the subject to the highest level possible. This needs great behaviour from all in the lesson and teachers free to use their time planning. Centralised detentions support both these things where individual repair and rebuild sessions inhibit them. In most cases pupils do not have a genuine emotional issue with a consequence. On the rare occasions they do, something more is required, such as the presence of a pastoral leader. Centralised detentions make teachers happy and can change a school’s culture, and they build in “slack” so the system works even in difficult times.

If you’re wondering how to fund a behaviour administrator for centralised detentions, consider this: I would happily teach classes of 40 under this system, provided feedback policies, reporting etc. were sensible. Once we get proper resources for the new curricula, I reckon I could do 50. If I’ve missed any arguments against centralised detentions, I’d like to hear them. If I haven’t, well, what are you waiting for?

 

 

 

I think behaviour out of lessons is a really important area that is often overlooked. In this post I describe what we do to get it right at my school and explain why I think it’s so important.

I’m defining between lessons, break and lunch, and before and after school as “out-of-lesson behaviour”. Why is it so often overlooked? There are a few possible reasons:
1. Leaders may view it as draconian to impose rules on pupils outside of lessons.
2. Leaders may want to address it but feel they need to prioritise behaviour in classrooms.
3. Leaders may just not have thought about it.

What we do at my school
First, we have a written list of areas and times and what the expectations are for those. For example: corridor between lessons: no running, pushing, shouting, food, drink, or phones. Canteen at lunch: no running, pushing or shouting, phones allowed for texting but not calls or photos. This sounds confusing but it’s not.
There’s also an additional set of expectations that applies everywhere, all the time: no swearing, no chewing, no rudeness, no refusal, full uniform…
A clear consequence for breaking a rule: a “C4 other” (an hour’s detention) or a “C5” (a day in isolation plus an hour’s detention). You can read more about this here.
Of fundamental importance is our brilliant system to administrate these consequences: a tiny slip of paper filled out by the member of staff giving the consequence, an administrator to inform the parents, centralised detentions with registers sent to the administrator, who then administers escalations for failure to attend. There is so little workload for the member of staff that you would never let something go because you were tired/stressed/ had loads of urgent and important work that you had to prioritise. This is important because a) even the most conscientious member of staff can find themselves in this position, b) it’s unrealistic to imagine 100% of your workforce has the maximum level of conscientiousness, c) if you want to recruit and retain the best staff then they need to be able to
spend their time on the good stuff. You know, teaching.
We have clear procedures for staff to follow, including telling the pupil you are going to issue them a C4/5 and why. You can read more about our behaviour administration here.
There is a clear consequence (C5) for any rudeness displayed by a pupil on being informed of a consequence. So you don’t feel afraid to “poke the hornets’ nest” i.e. get a load of grief for enforcing an expectation.
We have “policies of presence” around the school: teachers “meet and greet” pupils at the start of lessons and so monitor corridor behaviour then; break duty is carefully monitored by SLT. Crucially, because things like computers and printers work, and most teachers have their own classrooms, doing these things is easy and pleasant for teachers, instead of awful and a massive impediment to the success of your next lesson.
Pupil culture- pupils know what the consequences are so they don’t feel caught out when they incur them. Pupils have got good relationships with staff, largely because the behaviour system makes school a nice place to be and they feel successful because they’re learning lots.
Staff culture – teachers feel safe to ask questions: “I’ve just seen a pupil deliberately pouring crisps on the floor- should I do a C5?” ( the answer was yes). I constantly ask questions like this, and when I apologise the response is invariably, “we’d much rather people ask questions than not act because they’re not sure.” We also know that “the chain is only as strong as its weakest link” – we have a duty to our colleagues to uphold the expectations. Finally we know that this is part of our pupils’ education: we owe it to them to teach them civilised comportment. You can read more about our culture here.

Why it’s important
The number one reason I think out-of-lesson behaviour needs clear consequences and an effective administration is this: it makes the system work for teachers in lessons. Let’s look at what happens if you don’t have an out-of-lesson behaviour system. Let’s say you encounter some poor behaviour, let’s say a group of pupils are playfully scuffling on their way to lesson. You might not even notice this as being poor behaviour as you don’t have these rules. But let’s say you do. What do you do? You might pretend not to notice. The pupils then expect you not to notice things in your classroom. When you do, the consequence is seen as unfair. Or you fall into pretending not to notice things in your classroom.
Alternatively, you might tell the pupils to stop. In this case one of two things might happen. You might have the charisma, fear-factor or “relationship” with the pupils that means they do what you say. Or you don’t have it, and consequently they don’t do it. It’s then more difficult for you to apply a behaviour policy in lesson, because pupils have previously disobeyed you and nothing happened.

This situation is incredibly damaging to whole school behaviour. If pupils follow instructions because of who is giving them then whole-school behaviour will never be good enough. It’s unrealistic that all staff will fit the profile of “good behaviour inducer” described above. In fact, it is undesirable that staff should fit this profile because it often means they have to sacrifice learning in order to build these relationships. For example, I’ve interrupted my own lessons in the past to tell hilarious jokes to make pupils like me. Those pupils now know less science than they would have done without those interruptions. So by relying on “relationships” to cause good behaviour, you virtually guarantee that a) behaviour will be bad for some teachers and b) some teachers will waste learning time to get good relationships. A clear and well-managed system avoids these problems.

There are a number of other reasons that out-of-lesson behaviour needs careful management. To a large extent, the corridor is the face of the school. If you visit a school you will definitely walk along the corridor. I think these impressions are important- for inspectors, parents, and prospective staff.
There is a lot of damage that can be done to the school building by out-of-lesson behaviour- manage it and your school will look better.
Seepage- if pupils have just been behaving in a certain way outside the classroom it’s harder for them to behave in the classroom.
Relationships- I do actually think it’s important for staff to build good relationships- I just think it’s bad if these are the foundation of behaviour management. A calm corridor/canteen/whatever is a lovely place to rib a pupil about their football team or ask how their puppy’s getting on. And it means that time is not being stolen from lessons to do so.

At the start of this post I suggested three possible reasons that out-of-lesson behaviour often gets overlooked. I suggest that it’s kinder to pupils to have calm corridors and consistency as you move between lessons. I hope this post shows that out-of-lesson behaviour must be addressed in order to promote good behaviour in lessons and must not be deprioritised. And if your school just hasn’t thought about it yet, then nows the time for them to start!